The design of objects is evocative of a culture. my own personal culture Built on observation and experimentation is what I am expressing in my work. - nt
With the debut of his first collection Detroit-based designer Nicholas Tilma encourages us to think about the everyday objects around us and find new meaning in familiar forms. We sat down with Tilma to discuss what drives his design practice and, among other things, why he loves buying materials off the shelves of Home Depot…
NS: Why Focus your first collection on lighting?
nt: I like activating an object so it has another life. I started designing lighting because I wanted to create something that could turn off and on, exist in more than one state. Send multiple messages.
NS: You have defined your practice as ‘re-contextualizing’ everyday materials + forms…
nt: Good design should activate thinking. My practice is very much driven by observation, looking at the objects within our environments: what they are made of, how we use them, whether or not their form indicates their use… this observation drives playful but serious experimentation. There’s something to be said about using readily-available materials to create new objects that challenge how we think about materials, form and use. My current work was inspired by observing municipal objects, the materials, forms and meanings we have assigned them and expanding into new territory. Intentionally, most of the materials can be sourced right off the shelves of Home Depot. The materials are accessible - it is the thought-process that makes them provoking.
The ‘Cone’ Light (pictured above) is made of concrete cast directly from a plastic cone. Not a mold modeled after a plastic cone but the cone itself. Merging the symbolism of the cone and the road (Stop or Go?), each ‘Cone’ Light takes on the unique shape of each plastic cone (and any unique manufacturing irregularities) to create an object with the feeling of forward movement.
NS: We agree. We see a lot of forward movement in your designs…
nt: I believe good design should not be static but present multiple perspectives, multiple thought propositions.
NS: How does the place in which you work inform your practICE?
nt: Where I live and work does not directly influence my design. I observe everything, everywhere so my inspiration is much broader. But living and working in Detroit as a designer - both for my own practice and as a product designer for a start-up furniture manufacturer - I have come to appreciate the wide range of materials and processes you can explore here. That paired with being part of a small but rapidly growing design scene has really inspired me to think about the possibilities of how things can be made.
NS: What are some of your most significant influences?
nt: I believe the design of objects is evocative of a culture. My own personal culture is what I am expressing and I look up to designers who paved the way for personal cultural expression - Memphis Group and Ettore Sottsass being huge influences. Nanda Vigo is also one of my favorites..
NS: What Is your favorite color?
nt: Yellow. Also, turquoise, blue, purple, orange... I use a lot of colorful cords in my lighting, especially the vivid orange and blue cords from Home Depot. Going back to my desire to create something different from accessible materials…I figure if it has to have a cord then the cord should be a detail the speaks to the intention of the design.
NS: What do you think is the future of furniture?
nt: I have this internal conflict about furniture design, interiors and living. On the one hand I like to challenge this current mono-culture based on trends by creating, for example, lamps that expand the notion of what lighting is - how it should look, how it functions. But on the other hand, I do believe it is nice to have simple, everyday objects that focus on functionalism. I seek an equilibrium between these two perspectives and I think people should seek the same equilibrium in their spaces. All design cannot be conceptually provoking you need functional purity to create balance.